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“The People Have Spoken” in Maryland: Remarks from Death with Dignity Executive Director Peg Sandeen

January 28, 2020

Advocates, lawmakers, and leaders of national organizations gathered today at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis to urge state legislators to pass the End of Life Option Act.

Death with Dignity National Center Executive Director Peg Sandeen delivered remarks at the press conference in which she released the results of a recent poll, commissioned by Death with Dignity, that showed 66 percent of Marylanders support medical aid in dying. She also thanked the bill’s sponsors, Delegate Shane Pendergrass and State Senators Will Smith and Ron Young, for their leadership, and acknowledged the “long shared effort” of all present to achieving policy reform in Maryland.

We shared highlights from her remarks on Twitter earlier today. Here are her remarks in full:

This Is Our Year

I’m Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, which led the effort to pass the nation’s first medical aid in dying law a generation ago now in Oregon. It’s an honor to be here today as we begin our fifth session of work on the Maryland End of Life Option Act. We hope it is the final phase of our long, shared effort to let the people of Maryland have the option to die with dignity. This is our year.

Decades of Data Show Death with Dignity Laws Work

I’m pleased to confirm what those of us here already know. The Oregon law – and all the other state laws that are modeled on it – have performed flawlessly for an entire generation, without any of the horror stories that its opponents like to promote. That’s right: we have a generation’s worth of data demonstrating the law works like it should—granting the right to medical aid in dying to a small number of qualified terminally ill individuals while protecting all others against coercion and abuse.

Polling Shows Strong Support in Maryland

Recently, Death with Dignity commissioned a poll of Marylanders from every corner of the state. As you can see from the results we have provided here, every single demographic in this state supports death with dignity.

Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Rural, Urban and suburban. Old, young and middle aged. African American, white.

Every single group of people supports this law, according to this January 2020 poll from respected Maryland pollster, Gonzales Research & Media Services*.

 

 

Republicans support this at 54%. Those from the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland support this at 67%. Those over 60 support this law by 62%.

When you compare these numbers to past polling numbers, we can see a slow growth in overall support over the past five years from the first Maryland poll commissioned by the Washington Post and done by the University of Maryland in 2015, where overall support was at 60% to last year’s Goucher Poll and Public Policy Polling which showed support at 62% and 66% respectively.

The Legislative Process Is Working

Our poll this year has overall support at 66%, and this growth in support over five years demonstrates that the legislative process in Maryland is working. There have been public debates and hearings, and the more Marylanders learn about death with dignity, the more they support it. Over the past few weeks, I have met with dozens of legislators, and I can feel this undercurrent of growing support.

No Coercion, No Fraud

The legislative concerns I have heard are based in the unsubstantiated claims of our opponents who provide no data to back up their stories. These are stories based in fears about what is happening in the 10 jurisdictions with Death with Dignity polices and court decisions in place. And in every one of those states, starting with my state of Oregon in 1994, those fears simply never materialize. No coercion. No fraud. No fears have come to pass.

We Stand with Marylanders

We stand with the people of Maryland today as they urge this legislature to listen to the will of the voters who want this right for themselves should they receive a diagnosis of terminal death with a prognosis of six months. The numerous safeguards in this bill lead to a well-defined process that ensures every patient who voluntarily starts this journey will control the
process from beginning to end.

The People Have Spoken

It’s time for the people of Maryland to have their voice heard in the Maryland legislature. The people have spoken, and they want the option for Death with Dignity today.

Moral Courage

I would like to thank Chair Pendergrass for her leadership on this issue, and the other legislative champions including bill co-sponsors Senators Ron Young and Will Smith. They have all demonstrated the type of moral courage that it takes to stand up for vulnerable terminally ill adults

Thank you.

*The poll was conducted by Gonzales Research & Media Services from December 23rd through January 4th, 2020. A total of 838 registered voters in Maryland, who indicated that they are likely to vote in the 2020 general election, were queried by live telephone interviews, utilizing both landline (39%) and cell phone (61%) numbers. A cross-section of interviews was conducted throughout the state, reflecting general election voting patterns. The margin of error (MOE), per accepted statistical standards, is a range of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. If the entire population was surveyed, there is a 95% probability that the true numbers would fall within this range.

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